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Deadly Defoe saves Sunderland

Sunderland
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By ESPN Staff

Russian press hail UEFA Cup-bound Spartak

MOSCOW, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Russian media have hailed Spartak Moscow after they finally snapped a record 22-match winless streak in the Champions League by beating Sporting 3-1 in their final Group B match on Tuesday.

The win in Lisbon allowed the Russians to leapfrog the Portuguese side thanks to their better head-to-head record and finish third in their group behind Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, securing a spot in the UEFA Cup.

'The curse has been lifted!' said a front-page headline in the newspaper Sport-Express on Wednesday.

'Spartak brilliantly made use of their last chance to reach the UEFA Cup!' echoed the rival sports daily Sovietsky Sport.

The Muscovites struck twice in the opening quarter of an hour through Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko and Ukraine international Maxim Kalinichenko to take a 2-0 lead.

Porto striker Carlos Bueno pulled one back for the home side in the 31st minute but Spartak winger Denis Boyarintsev made sure of the points by scoring the third a minute from time.

The victory ended a six-year dry spell in Europe's premier club competition by Spartak. Their previous success was a 4-1 win over Arsenal on a snow-covered pitch at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium on November 22, 2000.

Spartak, however, still hold another unwanted Champions League mark for having the worst record in a group stage when they lost all six of their matches in the 2002-03 competition to Valencia, Liverpool and Basel and were outscored 1-18.

Bulgarian champions Levski Sofia, who made their Champions League debut this year, just avoided that ignominious record when they finished bottom of Group A, which also included Chelsea, Barcelona and Werder Bremen, with no points and a 1-17 goal ratio.